NEW YORK CITY -- The NBA’s reigning MVP wants to help decide the league’s future MVPs.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant, in New York City before his sixth straight All-Star Game, joined a number of his fellow NBA players in suggesting that their voices should be heard when it comes to awards voting. Under the current system, a panel of writers and broadcasters votes for the end-of-season awards and All-NBA Teams, while a fan vote handles the All-Star starters and a vote of the coaches takes care of the All-Star reserves.
“I think media gets too much power to vote on stuff, quite frankly, that you don’t know a lot about, as much as we [players] know about it,” Durant said at All-Star media availability on Friday. “We play against these guys every single night, we battle against these guys, we know what they say on the court, we know how they handle their teammates, we know how they approach the game. Our vote should count. Our opinions should count. I don’t think you guys know as much as we do and I don’t know why you have more power than we do.”
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford and Suns guard Isaiah Thomas have both tweeted recently that the players should be involved in the awards voting process. As it turns out, NBA players used to vote for the MVP award until 1980-81, when the current system that asks the media to submit five names, ranked in order, was adopted.
To Durant, who won his first MVP award in 2013-14, the crux of the issue is credibility. When pressed on what the media is missing in its selections, he asserted that the players -- by virtue of their pre-game preparations and direct communication with their colleagues -- are simply more knowledgeable than media members. The media, he added, is apt to miss the most deserving players by honing in on higher-profile players.
“We really know these guys inside and out,” Durant said. “There’s a lot of guys that deserve to be Defensive Player of the Year or Sixth Man of the Year, but they’re not the sexier names. A lot of [media] people see the names of these players, and they don’t really look at the other guys that contribute to our game as well.
“You [media] guys aren’t in the scouting reports, the team meetings, in the film sessions to really break down these players' games. I don’t see why you have more power in voting than we do. We’re out on the court playing with them.”
Although LeBron James, a four-time MVP, wasn’t nearly as vocal as Durant, he did agree that allowing former Heisman Trophy winners a vote for the annual award in college football was a “pretty good thing.”
The Cavaliers forward admitted he still wasn’t entirely sure what criteria is used by MVP voters in making their selections, and said that there are a number of worthy candidates this year. James is one such candidate, along with the likes of Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Rockets guard James Harden and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis.
“There are so many MVP candidates and it’s [about] how important they are to their teams,” James said. “When they are on the floor, how do those guys produce, and when they are off the floor, how do they produce. … I’ve always tried to be the biggest leader for my teammates every night, win, lose or draw.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has taken steps to solicit player feedback since taking over his post last year. One major example: this year’s extended All-Star break, which will run a full week, an idea that was popular among the players. Silver has also listened to players’ opinions on everything from the Donald Sterling saga to sleeved jerseys.
It’s unclear how long it might take to implement player voting as part of the end-of-season awards or All-Star selection process, but there is one possible, immediate solution: there’s nothing stopping the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) voting on its own end-of-season awards. Indeed, if the NBPA did conduct a full vote, with a public revealing of its selections, that would surely generate lots of interest. And, in cases where their selections differed with the media’s, an extra round of debate.
While Durant repeatedly stated his belief that players were more knowledgeable about this subject than media members, he did extend an olive branch by thanking the large, assembled group for its role in promoting the league.
“We appreciate you [media] guys blowing the game up and how much attention you bring to the game,” he said. “But at the same time, let’s keep it pure. The players should have more say in that [award] stuff.”